Good Reading : September 2017
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING SEPTEMBER 2017 12 Jimmy Flick, the leading character in The Eye of the Sheep, emerged from a dramatic monologue you wrote for a playwr iting class. How did Justine, the main character of The Choke, come into existence? At a particularly vulnerable point in my life I watched a documentary about a woman who had committed a ser ies of violent murders. The film explored the woman’s childhood, and I was so distressed about it – and so outraged by the neglect that she had suffered – that I wanted to tell her story. Once I began the journey in writing, however, I discovered a whole new narrative, driven by a unique protagonist who had never done the kinds of things that the woman in the film did. Still, she remains an important inspiration. What is the significance of the area around the Mur ray River in The Choke? The Murray River is a source of comfort to my central character, Justine, who is a witness to adult violence. Her imagination is free to wander when she is there. Nature is Justine’s escape; it gives her privacy and a space where her fantasies can live. She is captivated by the way water flows forward. The r iver symbolises deter mination and a way out for Justine. She sees the way the red gums that grow in the forest around the Murray survive underwater. Nothing can destroy them. The trees give Justine hope and act as a mirror to her own resilience. One of the characters in The Choke is haunted by memories of the Thailand–Bur ma Railway. What kind of research did you undertake regarding the railway? Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard was a book that influenced me deeply. Barry didn’t fight in World War II – he was a veteran of the war in Vietnam – but his story, I am sure, resonates with war vets from all over the world, at different times in history. His suffering was relentless and it almost destroyed him. I felt a great deal of empathy for those in his position. In the early stages of wr iting The Choke I looked at as many images as I could find of the soldiers who became POWs in World War II and were forced by the Japanese to build the railway between Burma and Thailand. As you can imagine, they were disturbing photographs. But always my task was to tell the story from WRITER’S LIFE gg M ytop1 0 SOFIE LAGUNA, winner of the 2015 Miles Franklin Award, tells us about 10 books she has loved and her new novel, The Choke.